I’ve got this friend and we’ve been e-mailing back and forth for seven or eight years now about what we want to be when we grow up. It’s become largely an academic question, because he’s now in his mid-thirties and I’m in my, ah, very mid-thirties and the course of our lives has been set — by the choices we’ve made while waiting for adulthood to show up, by the responsibilities created by those choices and by the people we’ve accreted into our lives during that time. It turns out adulthood doesn’t happen on your twenty-first birthday so much compile via sediment over the next decade or so.
Family, check. House, check. Car, check. Going abroad, check. You can get all that. So why do we keep asking the question?
Because it doesn’t feel completely answered: What do I want to do with my life?
That’s easy — or, rather, it’s easy to answer. I want to create something, build something, make something, with my hands and my brain and whatever tiny bit of passion I can muster. It doesn’t even matter what, really: cool things; fun things; interesting things; silly or stupid things. Things that make other people happy, or amused, or enraged, or some goddamned way other than what they were when they came in. Things that get a reaction, that have some sort of meaning, to me and to others. I want to exercise my creativity in ways that corporate and familial responsibilties don’t offer. I love my family and like my company, but they both need me to be solid and predictable and reliable. I want to be that, of course, but more, too. I want to do something.
And the doing turns out to be the hard part. Time, energy, motivation — they’re all necessary and all drained away by the work-a-day world, by all the other things that there are to take care of, the stuff we have to do because our families and our jobs depend on us getting them taken care of. I come home, ground down to a tiny little nub by work and the commute and everything else, and have dinner and talk to the kid and put him in bed and… I’m done. My brain curls up into a little ball and cries itself to sleep. Day after day after day.
But when all is said and done, that’s a pretty poor excuse, isn’t it? For all the hardship in the world, if the only thing standing between me and some sort of existential satisfaction is that there’s too much else to do, well, then, hmm.